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In Brief: Babylon
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In Brief: Babylon

We happily return to NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World with a written brief from two of its guest curators, art historian Anastasia Amrhein (r) and historian Elizabeth Knott (l). Clarification: the Babylon they refer to is a completely different place from the Babylon Bob Marley sang about.   Person: Robert Koldewey … Continue reading »

Music

309: Rosanne Cash

This singer, songwriter, and author didn’t have an easy start. “I had a chaotic childhood, to put it mildly, an abnormal childhood.” Then she discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder. Little Therapist on the Prairie? Nope. A guide to an orderly life. Or so it seemed to a kid. The result: an impressively accomplished adult.  Continue reading »

Scholars

307: Drew Gilpin Faust

An esteemed historian (This Republic of Suffering) and president emeritus of Harvard, she suggests that the widespread misuse of “disinterested” to mean “uninterested” rather than “objective” reflects a broad undervaluing of objectivity, open-mindedness, and intellectual honesty. Seldom has so bleak an insight given me such delight. Continue reading »

Fiction

306: Joyce Carol Oates

Our conversation ranged over modern boxers, Victorian writers, one-room schools, and that nearly mythical creature, that unicorn of politics, the moderate Republican. (I hope to see one someday.) It was a treat to engage with someone interested in, well, everything. Continue reading »

Nonfiction

305: E. Jean Carroll

She asserts, boldly if not entirely persuasively, that the supreme literary form is the advice column. She is rightly celebrated for hers, Ask E. Jean, which ran in Elle magazine from 1993 through 2019, and for winning the Miss Cheerleader USA title in 1964, the invariable precursor of an esteemed career in journalism.  Continue reading »

Nonfiction

304: Randy Cohen

From time to time someone suggests that I be a guest on the show and describe my own person, place, and thing. I reply, maybe in season ten, my euphemism for never.  Then I smile and add, sure, if we’re confined to our homes by a horrible pandemic exacerbated by a criminally incompetent White House and can’t … Continue reading »

Dance

Episode 303: Wendy Whelan

She’s been with the New York City Ballet for 30 years, rising from apprentice to principal to associate artistic director. “When I moved to New York at 15, by myself, I moved into Jacques d’Amboise’s home. He rented the third floor of his brownstone to four young ballet students.” The world’s coolest boarding house. I … Continue reading »

Politics and Policy

Episode 302: Vincent Sapienza

He leads New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, managing the finest municipal water system in America, despite much of it flowing through century-old cast-iron pipes. He told the Municipal Archives, “The pipe under 42nd Street goes back to the time when John Wilkes Booth’s brother was acting as Hamlet on Broadway.” Yes, he dates infrastructure … Continue reading »

Architecture & Design

Episode 300: Gene Kohn

He is a co-founder of KPF, architects of buildings worldwide, including One Vanderbilt, rising near Grand Central. “It’s very tall at over 1,400 feet, but it’s not the tallest building in New York, and we weren’t trying to make it the tallest,” he told the Center for Architecture. “We didn’t want to get into a … Continue reading »

Art

Episode 299: Sarah Boxer

This cartoonist and her cousin, our featured musical guest Jill Sobule, were raised in Colorado, with ties to a disastrous nineteenth-century scheme that sent Jewish immigrants westward from the slums of the Lower East Side. Great story. Great song. (Somehow the words “disastrous scheme” evoke the White House. I can’t imagine why.) Continue reading »